Jon Gruden's presence felt during first practice back with Raiders


Jon Gruden's presence felt during first practice back with Raiders

ALAMEDA – Raiders practices have a soundtrack. Hip-hop typically blared during on-field sessions run by Jack Del Rio, with music designed to sustain intensity.

The backbeat faded once Del Rio left town, but there’s a new sound stimulating work rates.

Jon Gruden’s voice.

That was clear Tuesday afternoon, during his first practice since taking over (a second time) as Raiders head coach. He doesn’t speak nonstop, but can be clearly heard across the field when sending out instructions, critiques or motivational salvos.

Gruden revved up as practice began, just telling his offense how he wants to huddle. It took off from there, but not just with volume. There was substance and purpose, even in a brief window open to the press.

“The energy level he brings is amazing, and somehow he’s consistent with it day in and day out,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “That’s impressive. It’s fun, and I think we’ll feed off of that. That’s part of the reason why we were successful today and our tempo was good. He’s bringing the energy, and it feeds down to us.”

Motivation isn’t the only goal. He’s often testing his charges, as he did to quarterback Derek Carr on Tuesday.

“We tried to give him some audibles and different situations on the very first day,” Gruden said. “He was all over it…Derek didn’t blink.”

Carr has only possessed Gruden’s playbook a few weeks now, but Gruden was testing his field general to see how much he learned and retained.

“He tried to get me, to see if I was listening to him in the meetings,” Carr said. “We had a lot of fun out there. It’s fun to accept his challenge, do well and then wink at him or something like that. We have fun together because we know we have the same goal in mind. We’re putting the ship in the water and then we want to hit this thing running.”

Carr passed with flying colors. Count Gruden among the impressed.

“I got really excited out there. You can have a really creative imagination out there with that guy as your quarterback,” Gruden said. “He can make every throw. The ball comes out fast, and he’s accurate. He’s mobile. He’s sharp. He’s a great leader.”

The first of three minicamp practices was a pop quiz of sorts. He wanted things run at a moderate pace, to see how players reacted under some stress.

Gruden’s volume and intensity wasn’t the only new addition. The Raiders have added to large video boards to the practice field, allowing players to review practice reps right after they happen. Gruden said he took the idea from Jim Harbaugh, who uses video boards at the University Michigan. The Miami Dolphins took them from the Wolverines, and Gruden saw them while broadcasting for ESPN. That’s an example of how Gruden’s recent past shapes how he’ll coach nine years after his previous stint.

It had been a long time since Gruden ran a practice, and the moment, however insignificant in the grand scheme, was not lost on him.

“I came back to coach,” Gruden said. “I’m excited to be here. I take it as a serious responsibility, and the practice field has always been a laboratory for a coach. That’s where we earn our pay. We have to develop this team. We have to learn a lot about them quickly. We have a lot of things to teach, and a lot of areas to improve. It was fun to be out there, but I don’t want to get too deep or philosophical about it. I might start crying.

Laughter followed that last line, which he has used in various forms since his last coaching stint. Gruden was comfortable back in his element, excited to be coaching the Raiders again with his own unique style.

Le'Veon Bell to Raiders? Oddsmakers like Jon Gruden and Co.'s chances


Le'Veon Bell to Raiders? Oddsmakers like Jon Gruden and Co.'s chances

Le’Veon Bell isn’t returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers this year. The running back didn't sign the franchise tag contract tender provided this offseason, and extending his contract holdout beyond Tuesday afternoon means he'll become an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

According to an online sportsbook, the odds are great that he could become a Raider at that point.

The sports gambling website OddsShark, which takes its information from, an offshore sports gambling site that also houses an online casino, believes the Raiders have high odds of landing Bell this offseason. The Silver and Black have +500 odds to land Bell, according to the gambling website, second only to the New York Jets. The Jets have +300 odds to sign Bell this offseason.

This information isn't based on a report from any other publication covering the NFL, and there is no insight reported from any source about where Bell might sign.

Despite calls to by NBC Sports Bay Area, it remains uncertain how these odds were obtained.

The concept of Bell to the Raiders or the Jets was popularized Tuesday by the Twitter account @br_betting, which promoted odds of the Raiders being second in line to land the talented running back, who has missed the entire 2018 season while holding out for a long-term contract despite being given a franchise tag contract tender worth $14.544 million.

According to NFL rules, Bell had to report to the Steelers by Tuesday afternoon and sign the tag, or sit out the entire season. He chose to do the latter, but Bell will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Bell easily is one of the best professional running backs, with the tools to be considered a complete package. The Raiders are expected to have $83 million in salary-cap space entering that season, though that total will decrease after they sign players to reserves-futures contracts and earmark more money for the NFL draft pool.

[RELATED: Raiders in the driver's seat for No. 1 overall draft pick]

The Raiders chose to trade Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper over paying them in the near future, but they have plenty of money to spend should they try to go after a big-ticket player such as Bell.

It’s uncertain at this time whether the Raiders have any interest in Bell. Contacting him or his agent at this point, according to NFL rules, would be considered tampering.

Bell could be a perfect fit for Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s offensive scheme, though, considering his ability to catch passes out of the backfield and running with patience behind an offensive line.

Bell has gained at least 1,200 rushing yards in three of the last four seasons, and he has averaged 4.3 yards per carry over his six-year career. He had 1,291 rushing yards, 655 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns in 2017.

2019 NFL Draft: Raiders in driver's seat to secure No. 1 overall pick


2019 NFL Draft: Raiders in driver's seat to secure No. 1 overall pick

Well, the Raiders did their job.

They stunk yet again Sunday, ensuring they didn’t lose the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL draft. The 49ers did them a solid Monday night, allowing the New York Giants to hit two wins and keep the Silver and Black in firm possession of the top draft pick position.

Trading Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper netted two more first-round picks, putting the Raiders in prime position to rebuild an ailing roster. Here’s where their three first-round picks stand after 10 weeks of NFL action:

No. 1 overall (Last week: No. 1)
How it was earned: 
The Silver and Black are in the driver’s seat here, especially after the Giants beat the 49ers and left them as the NFL’s only one-win team. The 49ers still are hot on the Raiders’ trail for the top pick, but the Silver and Black can clinch if they just never, ever win a game this season. It might be an exercise in futility, but it would guarantee Jon Gruden gets the guy he really, really wants.

No. 14 overall (Last week: No. 11)
How it was earned: 
This pick took a dip due to the Cowboys showing some resilience. Beating the Eagles on Sunday night proves that Dallas still is in it and could move further down the draft order. The Raiders would hate that after trading Cooper to the Cowboys for their first-round pick. That stock dipped a bit, and Dallas losing would drive it back up.

No. 24 overall (Last week: No. 22)
How it was earned: 
This selection gets worse and worse with the Bears fighting not only for the NFC North title but for a home game in the NFC playoffs. The Raiders traded Mack for the Bears’ top pick in this draft, among other things, and aren’t getting much in return in 2019. Mack had two sacks Sunday to help drive this draft pick down, something the Raiders should’ve considered when they allowed his talent to help dictate how good the 2018 Bears would be.